AT&T on Track With 5G, Starts FirstNet Build

AT&T executives said Wednesday the operator plans to be the mobile 5G leader in the US, and will spend five years fully building out the FirstNet LTE network in the US for emergency workers.

At the Brooklyn 5G Summit on Wednesday morning, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)' s president of technology repeated once again that Ma Bell will have mobile 5G available in 12 markets in the US late in 2018, albeit with a "mobile puck" that might be better described as a nomadic router device. The operator hasn't said that what spectrum it will use yet. However, we're told 39GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum is widely expected to be AT&T's frequency of choice.

On AT&T's first quarter earnings call later Wednesday, CFO John Stephens lauded AT&T's recent fixed wireless mmWave 5G, saying that they performed "better than expected." The test signals, he said, "blasted through foliage," rain and snow -- although this was under trial conditions, he allowed.

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Meanwhile, back in the 4G LTE world, AT&T has started to deploy FirstNet 700MHz D-Block (Band 14) radio equipment at its towers. More than 600 agencies in 48 states have signed on for services, Stephens said. AT&T said it expects to "touch" a third of its towers with Band 14 equipment this year but the nationwide rollout will take five years in all. (See Verizon Talks Up Private Core as AT&T Launches FirstNet and 50 US States Sign on for Nationwide Safety Network .)

AT&T’s overall revenue for the first quarter fell 3.4% year-over-year to $38 billion due to new accounting procedures, implemented in the first quarter, and declines at AT&T's Business Solutions and Entertainment Group units. Profits grew to $4.7 billion, compared to $3.5 billion last year. Adjusted earning per share (EPS) was up nearly 15% to $0.85 but missed $0.87 analyst expectations.

The operator added 49,000 subscribers on a monthly contract (postpaid) during the quarter.

AT&T's shares are down 4.52% -- or $1.59 -- at $33.61 in after hours trading.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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